“I want to read aloud every poem in this book to everyone in the whole world.”

reviews continued

On Tony Ellis’ Collection of Poems: there is wisdom in walnuts
by Barbara Paul-Emile, Ph.D. Goldman Professor of English, Bentley College, MA.

The title of Tony Ellis’ collection of poems “there is wisdom in walnuts,” reflects one of the primary concerns of this collection: the presence and containment of the infinite within its smallest part. Ellis’ poems like jewels, spare, serene and pristine in their beauty need no particular setting. They reflect, like clear mirrors unhampered by distortion, the unity and connectedness of all things. Focusing on personal meditative experiences and daily activities, the poems in this collection playfully and longingly touch the edges of eternity. With a minimum of adornment and elaboration, the images presented in these poems move us as through a prism into the center of things. The speaker in these poems seek the oneness and is nourished by his affinity to it.

In a single dewdrop the speaker states:

from a single drop of dew
is the pathway
to a million civilizations
whose voice we never hear
except in the gentle breath of breeze
and the quiet hum
of life infinitely growing

This economy of words, unembroidered, allows for the graceful and effortless slipping of the bonds of the commonplace as we enter timelessness and connect with past and future. The sparkling dewdrop becomes the gateway to connect with the eternal since it carries within itself the essence and the paradigm of all of life and is part of the magnificent and all-encompassing software that is nature.

In the poem sometimes, the speaker explains:

there is nothing so fulfilling
as the white tassle of a carpet
seen through the eyes of everything,
or a simple green pot
sitting clean
on a perfect surface

Piercing duality with Zen-like precision and practicality, the poem presents objects of daily life allowing them to reveal themselves. Suddenly there is a flash of awareness and recognition and we see life in its completeness. These objects are part of the flow, part of the natural self-forgetting aspects of life. In their spare beauty and simplicity, they remind us of wholeness and call us to mindfulness.

The poet shows us the middle way. We can choose to be in the flow, whole, at peace with ourselves, free to be who we are, where we are, what we are and to embrace with understanding life as it is.

Ellis uses his rich imagination to ride on shafts of light and see himself as “stretched light and a warm glow.” Defying the confinements of this world, he finds a “heart … warm and full of galaxies …”

Consider the title poem, there is wisdom in walnuts:

there is wisdom in walnuts,
brilliance in atoms,

rivers can show you
to flow
without motion …

a million galaxies
meet on the head of a pin

and space that’s outside
is the same space within

Ellis’ use of paradox and verbal irony in the lines cited above, serves to create a mind-block that breaks the accepted stream of consciousness. These devises awaken the inner senses and trigger the kind of mind-clearing questioning to be found in a Zen koan.

The tone and substance of Ellis’ poems are philosophical, serene, expansive, full of deep feeling and transcendent. Their themes touch the root of existence. These poems, simple yet profound, deeply speculative yet contained, give us pleasure and lead us between worlds far beyond the realm of words and objects inviting us to float free on the “pillowed path” to enlightened understanding.



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